A ‘Red Deal’: Why Indigenous Communities Belong at the Center of Climate Action

Policies that aren’t rooted in Indigenous communities can cause many of the same oppressive outcomes as extraction.

End CO2lonialism
“As we look forward to a cleaner economy, the Indigenous resistance throughout the world brings hope that any climate action will include Indigenous liberation.” (Photo: Light Brigading/Flickr/cc)

“We are all related; us, plants, animals, water, air, and soil. We are all related.”

Driven by an endless hunger for power and control, colonial empires used violence to appropriate Indigenous land for mining and labor—a process that continues up to this day.

Asheninka Mino, a medicine man from the Indigenous community of Asheninka in Peru, repeated these words as we walked through the mountains of Mora, New Mexico. “To achieve peace is to achieve harmony with Pachamama (Mother Earth)—to respect it and nourish our relationship with her,” he continued.

He was teaching undocumented youth the importance of being rooted as we organize for our immigrant communities.

Every year, I have the privilege to attend the New Mexico Dream Team‘s UndocuHealing Retreat—a weekend-long retreat focused on creating space for undocumented youth to process trauma and stress through Indigenous medicine and ceremonies.

Throughout these ceremonies, the concept of treating Mother Earth and others with respect is encapsulated in two philosophical terms: Mitakuye Oyasin and In Lack’ech. These phrases, respectively from the Lakota and Mayan traditions, encapsulate ancestral wisdom. They highlight the sacred relationship we hold with Mother Earth and others.

Nick Estes, in his book Our History Is The Futurenotes that “these Indigenous ways of relating to human and other-than-human life exist in opposition to capitalism.” Instead, capitalism sees humans and the sacred as “labor and commodities to be bought and sold.”

And it is exactly this ideology that has displaced Indigenous communities for over 500 years.

Driven by an endless hunger for power and control, colonial empires used violence to appropriate Indigenous land for mining and labor—a process that continues up to this day. “Extractive projects materially dispossess Indigenous peoples of their lands to secure the future of the settler colonial nation,” as Philip Son wrote recently for Society and Space.

In Brazil, for example, Indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara reports that aggression by predatory agricultural companies against indigenous people there “has been getting much worse under the anti-Indigenous government of Jair Bolsonaro, who normalizes, incites, and empowers violence against the environment and against us.”

It is this same extractive economics that’s causing climate change today, leaving the Global South most vulnerable to the climate crisis. Left unchecked, the phantom dream of never-ending development will mean genocide for natural ecosystems and Indigenous nations alike.

There was an old Lakota prophecy (pdf) that “a black snake will slither across the land, destroying sacred sites and poisoning the water before destroying the earth itself.” According to Dallas Goldtooth, director of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), the black snake could represent not only the pipelines constructed across Indigenous lands, but also “the sickness of capitalism” itself, which casts a “shadow upon our heart and spirit of negativity, of dysfunction, of unhealthiness.”

Global climate action is, thankfully, reaching a fever pitch. But climate policies that aren’t rooted in Indigenous communities can end up causing many of the same oppressive outcomes as extraction.

Global climate action is, thankfully, reaching a fever pitch. But climate policies that aren’t rooted in Indigenous communities can end up causing many of the same oppressive outcomes as extraction.

A great example is the United Nations REDD+ project, aimed at providing incentives to slow deforestation and to restore and conserve forests. Unfortunately, the project’s reliance on privatization has undermined these goals.

According to an informative report (pdf) by IEN, projects that privatize forests in the name of mitigating climate change, like REDD+, “have resulted in militarization, evictions, fraud, disputes, conflicts, corruption, coercion, con men, crime, plantations and 30-100 year contracts, [and] deals with oil companies and other climate criminals.”

For Indigenous groups like the autonomous Zapatista resistance movement in Mexico, Adriana Gomez Bonilla explains, the fear of climate change is not just what happens to the climate itself. It’s that climate action will become another pretext for governments to displace them from their lands in the name of conservation.

For all its other virtues, this is a weak point of the Green New Deal framework. While the plan is “anti-capitalistic in spirit” and pays “lip service to decolonization, it must go further” to ensure indigenous liberation, Nick Estes writes in a piece for Jacobin.

Earlier last month, The Red Nation published “The Red Deal“—a political framework developed by young Indigenous activists, which pushes the Green New Deal to go further.

“The Red Deal is not a counter program of the GND,” they write. “It’s a call for action beyond the scope of the U.S. colonial state. It’s a program for Indigenous liberation, life, and land.” It pushes current climate policy work to expand, to include the demilitarization of the U.S. border, the abolishment of ICE, and decolonization of stolen land.

It also brings hope and a galvanizing energy to aim for Indigenous liberation.

As we look forward to a cleaner economy, the Indigenous resistance throughout the world brings hope that any climate action will include Indigenous liberation—an action that would re-establish our relationship with Mother Earth. It brings to light that Indigenous liberation is climate justice. SOURCE

It’s a symbol of our strength’: Heiltsuk open first Big House in 120 years

After decades of planning and fundraising, the long-ago destroyed Big House has been replaced for a new era


The community is kicking off five days of celebration in Bella Bella, B.C. today and is expecting as many as 2,000 guests from as far away as New Zealand to join to attend. (Charity Gladstone/The Canadian Press)

Chief Coun. Marilyn Slett of the Heiltsuk Nation says it’s hard to put into words the excitement and emotion she feels at Sunday’s opening of the first ceremonial Big House in the territory in modern history.

The last Big House in the First Nation’s territory along the B.C. coast was destroyed 120 years ago and the community has been planning and fundraising to build a new one for decades.

The opening means the community now has an appropriate space for spiritual and ceremonial events like potlatches and the naming of babies, which had previously been held in a community centre, she said.

“It feels great, it feels surreal, it feels sometimes like a dream,” Slett said in an interview.

Gvúkva’áus Haíłzaqv@HeiltsukBH

No words for how this day has unfolded!

View image on Twitter

The community kicked off five days of celebration in Bella Bella on Sunday and expects as many as 2,000 guests to join them from as far away as New Zealand.

Gvakva’aus Hailzaqv, or House of the Heiltsuk, took 18 months to build and is constructed entirely of red and yellow cedar from the territory, including logs more than a metre wide, weighing eight tonnes, that were locally sourced and milled.

Gvúkva’áus Haíłzaqv@HeiltsukBH

Morning views….. the time is almost here!!!

View image on Twitter

What happened to the last Big House?

William Housty, cultural adviser on the project, said the opening is an important step toward cultural revitalization, following a history of oppression.

“Missionaries claimed that the (last) Big House was blown down in a storm. But none of our people ever believed that because they chose that area to live in because it was so well sheltered from the storms,” he said.

The Heiltsuk believe the missionaries knocked down the last Big House in their efforts to assimilate members of the First Nation, he said.

It would be part of a series of efforts to erase Indigenous culture that also includes a federal ban on potlatches between 1880 and 1951.

Guiding builders on the construction of the Big House presented some challenges, considering no one was around 120 years ago to see the last Big House for themselves. But Housty said the First Nation has maintained a strong oral tradition that tracks the role of the Big House, supplemented by written accounts by fur traders, missionaries and others.


The Big House took 18 months to build and is constructed entirely of red and yellow cedar from the territory, including eight-ton and four-foot-wide logs with wood that was locally sourced and milled. (Heiltsuk Nation/The Canadian Press)

In one account, he said, the Big House is described as a living space. The rafters and house posts serve as the ribs and backbone of the structure, the front of the Big House is its face.

“It had the same sort of qualities we do as human beings,” he said.


Community members say a strong oral tradition helped to figure out how to build the new Big House in consideration of what the old one was like. It was destroyed 120 years ago. (Heiltsuk Nation/The Canadian Press)

The new building also breaks from the historic Big House in some ways, including measures to meet provincial building codes. It has about triple the capacity, with seating for up to 800 people and space for 1,000 if people stand.

“There’s a sense of pride knowing the dreams of so many ancestors are now being lived by our generation. People like my late grandfather who always talked about the Big House and how important it was aren’t here anymore,” Housty said. “Now we’re living their dreams.”  MORE

Robin Wall Kimmerer: “Corn Tastes Better on the Honor System”

“First Nations are Canadians’ last best hope at saving the lands, waters, plants and animals for our future generations.” —Dr. Pam Palmater

Robin Wall KimmererRobin Wall Kimmerer is Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology  at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, She is the author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants. She is a member an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

Here is an excerpt of her essay, “Corn Tastes Better on the Honor System, that appears in the latest issue of Emergence Magazine. Read, listen to, and click through the full experience here


“Colonists take what they want and attempt to erase the rest. Conceiving of plants and land as objects, not subjects—as things instead of beings—provides the moral distance that enables exploitation. Valuing the productive potential of the physical body but denying the personhood of the being, reducing a person to a thing for sale—this too is a manifestation of colonialism. . . .

Corn? Maize? Mother of All Things? Renaming is a powerful form of colonialism in which the settler erases original meanings and replaces it with meanings of their own. This practice of linguistic imperialism also diminished corn from its status as Mahiz, the sacred life giver, to an anonymous commodity.

Indigenous languages, lifeways, and relations with the land have all been subject to the violence of colonialism. Maize herself has been a victim, and so have you, when a worldview which cultivated honorable relations with the living earth has been overwritten with an ethic of exploitation, when our plant and animal relatives no longer look at us with honor, but turn their faces away.

But there is a kernel of resurgence, if we are willing to learn. The invitation to decolonize, rematriate, and renew the honorable harvest extends beyond indigenous nations to everyone who eats. Mother Corn claims us all as corn-children under the husk; her teachings of reciprocity are for all.”

SOURCE

 

Indigenous Tribes on Front Line of Amazon Rainforest Fires Vow to Resist Bolsonaro’s “Destruction of Mother Nature”

“We’re putting our bodies and our lives on the line to try to save our territories.”

Aerial view of a large burned area in the city of Candeiras do Jamari in the Brazilian state of Rondônia. (Photo: Victor Moriyama/Greenpeace)

Indigenous tribes whose land and livelihoods are being directly harmed by the fires ravaging the Amazon rainforest vowed Tuesday to do everything in their power to resist Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s “destruction of Mother Nature” and called on the rest of the world to join them.

“We’re putting our bodies and our lives on the line to try to save our territories,” Brazilian indigenous leader Sonia Guajajara, who was born in a village in the Amazon rainforest, said in a statement. “We’ve been warning for decades about the violations we have suffered across Brazil.”

“If we don’t stop this destruction of Mother Nature, future generations will live in a completely different world to the one we live in today.” —Huni Kuin tribe

“The predatory behavior of loggers, miners, and ranchers, who have a powerful lobby in the [Brazilian] National Congress with more than 200 deputies under their influence,” said Guajajara, “has been getting much worse under the anti-indigenous government of Jair Bolsonaro, who normalizes, incites, and empowers violence against the environment and against us.”

According to satellite data analyzed by Weather Source, there are over 2,000 fires raging in the Brazilian Amazon. The blazes sparked outrage from world leaders and dire warnings from environmentalists, who say the fires could accelerate the climate crisis by irreversibly damaging the “lungs of the world.”

In a statement, a group of leaders with the indigenous tribe Huni Kuin said the fires are “Mother Nature’s cry, asking us to help her.”

“If we don’t stop this destruction of Mother Nature, future generations will live in a completely different world to the one we live in today,” the tribe said. “And we are working today so that humanity has a future. But if we don’t stop this destruction, we will be the ones that will be extinguished, burned and the sky will descend upon us, which has already begun to happen.”

The Xingu peoples echoed that message in a video posted online Monday. Speaking to the people of the world as the wealthiest nations on the planet gathered in France for the G7 summit, a Xingu representative said indigenous tribes “are going to resist for the forest, for our way of living… for the future of our children and grandchildren.”

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Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein, writing in the Boston Globe Monday, said listening to indigenous peoples and respecting their rights is key to solving the global climate crisis with justice at the forefront.

“Colonialism is setting the world on fire,” wrote Klein. “Taking leadership from the people who have been resisting its violence for centuries, while protecting non-extractive ways of life, is our best hope of putting out the flames.” MORE

The Green New Deal In Canada: Challenges For Indigenous Participation

This postingis heavily edited for brevity. You are encouraged to read the full posting HERE

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AS WE MOVE THROUGH another colonial election year at the federal level, there is one arena that challenges most politicians: climate change and what we do about it.

Those paying attention to political debates know that taking action on climate appears to be at odds with the economic paradigm created and practiced over the last century and a half.

Rooted in a philosophy of extractivism, Canada’s economy relies on the theft and plundering of Indigenous lands and territories and peoples.

Most of the goods and services created from these extractive industries are the very drivers of climate change itself. Think tar sands, fracked gas, coal, forestry (and as such deforestation), water diversion to support it all, etc.

Considering this extractive economy, it will require a major overhaul for Canada itself to take meaningful action on climate and address the legacy of ongoing colonization, through a transformative economic, social and political shift. It is becoming increasingly impossible to ignore this truth. Droughts, floods, forest fires, super storms, erratic weather patterns, melting sea ice, decline in plant and animal species, and on and on, are increasingly top stories in the daily news (though the media often fails to connect these events to climate change).

While Indigenous peoples have been raising alarms about the state and health of Mother Earth for decades, if not centuries, decrying the abuses heaped upon her, Western science is now catching up, too.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) asserts that we have less than 11 years to cut global GHG emissions in half – while protecting our remaining cultural and biological diversity – or face catastrophic climate crisis.

It is also becoming increasingly understood that current plans and strategies, including the Paris Agreement, are failing to include or address the legacy of social injustices created by colonization, capitalism, and militarism; forces that destroy the cultural diversity which is key to mitigating climate change. Correspondingly, high level international and state policies and proposals also fail to include the full participation of Indigenous peoples despite the recognition of the important roles we play in addressing the climate crisis.

This includes the much heralded Green New Deal.

So what is this Green New Deal thing I keep hearing about?

As I write, environmental groups and centre-left political parties in both Canada and the U.S. are advocating for something called the Green New Deal (GND). Both versions of the GND are predicated on stabilizing current economic systems while simultaneously taking action on climate change, along with challenging current systems of injustice. The narrative of GND is an intentional throwback to the New Deal, an economic stimulus package created after the great depression in the U.S. by President Roosevelt.

As Julian Brave Noisecat writes in his Guardian piece No, climate action can’t be separated from social justice, The “Green” New Deal discussions happening in contemporary America “envisions a society where people have universal access to energy, jobs, healthcare and housing [and] is a call for renewed commitment to the equal distribution of opportunity and justice.”

To achieve these ends, the GND calls for major economic shifts toward a green energy economy.

Meanwhile in Canada, the discussions are more preliminary and revolve around conceptualizing a Northern version of a GND. It includes 150 organizations and prominent Canadians, including CUPE Ontario, the Canadian Health Coalition, the Canadian Unitarian Council, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Indigenous Climate Action (that’s us!), Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) and the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

The campaign’s current tagline is ripped straight from the IPCC report mentioned above and calls for “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

…The fact is that the GND is still being created in silos of elitism and is aimed primarily at influencing, and putting pressure on, colonial and corporate power to lead change.While it’s true that governments should be stepping up, history has indicated a stubborn attachment to the status quo, absent the will and commitment of the people. Indigenous Climate Action and other Indigenous organizations and communities are striving to ensure there are measures of accountability and true transformation embedded in moving things forward on the GND to avoid repeating history..

But they are advocating for systems change, aren’t they?

Yes, but they are also advocating for the same forces that drove us into a climate crisis to please pave the way out for us. Asking oppressors for liberation has not proven an effective strategy.

Currently, the GND proposals are focused on changing the energy infrastructure while redistributing wealth but ultimately failing to center the destructive intertwined roles of capitalism, consumerism, militarism and colonialism as foundations to the current crisis.

In other words, the GND in its current iteration is not a structural solution.

Without an acknowledgment of the severed spiritual and mental connection to the natural world we will continue to make the same mistakes.

It is Indigenous communities, locally, nationally and internationally, that continue to push for an actualization of instilling deeper spiritual connections the Mother Earth to help us relearn what systems of colonization, capitalism, and extractivism have severed.
Without these as tenets to a call for systems change it is merely a regurgitation of the same broken structures that perpetuate disconnection and individualism.

The current proposals for the GND, if ever taken up by those politicians, could have lasting impacts for generations to come, paving the way for new social, political and economic systems providing a new baseline.

We cannot afford for history to repeat itself.

Indigenous health care needs won’t be served by Ford government’s plan

In its efforts to “modernize” Ontario’s health care system, the Ford government might have met its match in Ovide Mercredi, the former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Tanya Talaga writes.

After 150 years of colonialism — of Indian residential schools, of the Indian Act and the presence of Indian hospitals where First Nations and Métis people received second-class health care — the power of health-care decision making should not be left in patriarchal hands so clearly linked to the past.

Yet in Ontario, the Ford government is turning back the clock as it proceeds with the formation of the new super health care agency, Ontario Health. The new agency’s creation means blowing apart much of the current health-care delivery system — Cancer Care Ontario, eHealth Ontario and Local Health Integration Networks and others — and centralizing decision-making power to save money.

Or, as Health Minister Christine Elliott calls it, “modernizing” the system.

But by centralizing health care decisions, the Ontario government is doing exactly the opposite, returning to a top-down approach where health-care needs are decided by the few for the many.

The new agency threatens to derail nearly three years of negotiations between Ontario, the federal government and Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) concerning turning over decision-making power about health care to 49 northern nations so they can bring health-care services closer to home. MORE

So much plastic is being made that “recycling has no impact”

overflowing trash
Public Domain MaxPixel

A Canadian scientist wants us to rethink our approach to plastic and challenge the colonial system that produces it.

Recycling has been called a Band-Aid solution, but Dr. Max Liboiron, director of the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR) in St. John’s, Newfoundland, had a far more poetic description when she said, “Recycling is like a Band-Aid on gangrene.”

Liboiron, who studies microplastics in waterways and food webs, is the subject of a 13-minute film called ‘Guts,’ created by Taylor Hess and Noah Hutton and published by the Atlantic (embedded below). She runs a laboratory that identifies itself as feminist and anti-colonial, which may sound odd in a scientific setting. Liboiron explains in the film:

“Every time you decide what question to ask or not ask others, which counting style you use, which statistics you use, how you frame things, where you publish them, who you work with, where you get funding from… all of that is political. Reproducing the status quo is deeply political because the status quo is crappy.”

The lab is concerned with preserving certain Indigenous traditions, such as smudging and praying over the disposal of dissected fish intestines following research. It implements protocols such as not wearing earbuds while working on a carcass, as this shows disrespect and lack of connection to the animal.

Liboiron is also committed to promoting citizen science. She has built two devices that trawl for microplastics, constructed from everyday materials. One costs $12, the other $500. These stand in contrast to the standard collection device, which costs $3,500. This makes it impossibly expensive for the average person to sample their own water, which Liboiron believes everyone has the right to do.

She doesn’t mince her words when it comes to recycling and its lack of efficacy:

“The only real mode of attack is to deal with the heavy decrease in the production of plastics, as opposed to dealing with them after they’ve already been created. Your consumer behaviours do not matter, not on the scale of the problem. On the scale of personal ethics, yes. Recycling has skyrocketed [with] no impact on the scale of plastic production whatsoever. Really it’s the cessation of production that will make the big-scale changes.”

As someone who advocates for personal plastic reduction, there’s a lot to take away from this statement. To the naysayers who argue there’s no point trying, the personal ethics response is powerful: We have to do these things so that we feel we are making a difference and to position ourselves to be able to challenge authority and the status quo without being a hypocrite. Does it actually help? Probably not much, if we’re being honest, but it can galvanize the broader societal change required to spur political decisions that can turn off the plastic tap eventually.

Liboiron views single-use plastic as a function of colonialism, the product of a system of domination that assumes access to land, both in terms of resource extraction and a product’s eventual disposal. She wrote in an article for Teen Vogue‘s Plastic Planet series,

“[The plastics industry] assumes that household waste will be picked up and taken to landfills or recycling plants that allow plastic disposables to go ‘away.’ Without this infrastructure and access to land, Indigenous land, there is no disposability.”

Usually this land belongs to developing nations or remote communities, which are then criticized by wealthier ones for mismanaging their waste, despite much of it being shipped there from those wealthier countries. Suggestions such as building more incinerators are made, despite the harmful environmental impact these solutions would have.

It’s clear that recycling isn’t going to solve this plastic crisis, and rethinking the system that produces it is really our only choice. Scientists like Liboiron force us to think outside the box, and it’s refreshing.

MORE

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The Indian Act: What to do with it

If you want to understand the hopes and aspirations of Indigenous nations, at present circumscribed by the Indian Act, take the time to listen to this revealing episode of The Agenda.

The Agenda with Steve Paikin:

Created more than 150 years ago, the Indian Act has structured relations between the federal government and Indigenous people for generations. And in the eyes of many, its purpose was and still is, to assimilate, control, and even destroy the people and communities that come under its jurisdiction.

In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to scrap it. That hasn’t happened.

The Agenda discusses what should be done about the archaic legislation.


Watch the video

 

Why mining justice must be central to the Green New Deal

 

Between May 18 and May 31, people across the country will be holding town halls in their communities to shape a vision for a Green New Deal. There is a Green New Deal set up for Belleville on Monday, May 27th at St Thomas Church, 7 to 9 pm.

Mining in Kailo. Photo: Julien Harneis/Wikimedia CommonsIt is imperative that we win a bold and profoundly transformative Green New Deal to avert the catastrophe of deepening climate breakdown.

We need a rebellion against a toxic system that Extinction Rebellion co-founder Stuart Basden has highlighted includes colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, Eurocentrism, hetero-sexism/heteronormativity, class hierarchy and other oppressions.

That toxic system also includes extreme violence and environmental damage by transnational mining corporations, many of them headquartered in Canada.

…a green colonialism that claims leadership and ignores the lived experience of the global majority “is no victory worth claiming, and it is the default left position if we do not actively fight for a different vision.”

Afro-Colombian anti-mining activist Francia Márquez, who recently survived an assassination attempt, frames her broader vision of challenging climate change as follows:

“I am one of those people who raise their voices to stop the destruction of rivers, forests, and wetlands; one of those people who dream that, one day, human beings are going to change the economic model of death, in order to build a model that guarantees life.”

A conscious and explicit recognition of the need for mining justice — and the impacts of mining injustice on racialized communities around the world — are critical components of the Green New Deal and the economic model of life that we need to build. SOURCE


 

First Nations and the federal election: An exercise in self-termination

This warning by Russ Diabo posted in Ricochet, July, 2015 is even more timely today.

Image result for Ricochet: First Nations and the federal election: An exercise in self-termination

For the past several weeks, I have observed with increasing frequency a call for First Peoples to get out for the upcoming federal election. The mainstream media and now the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Perry Bellegarde, are urging Indigenous people to vote, particularly since it is looking like a three-way race between the federal leaders and their parties (sorry, Elizabeth May).

…I took particular notice of an opinion piece by Tasha Kheiriddin in the National Post. Kheiriddin was responding to Regina Crowchild, a councillor with Alberta’s Tsuu T’ina Nation, who said that she would not want to see “an alien government’s polling station” on her reserve, adding that “if we join Canada in their election system, that’s a part of genocide.”

Here was Kheiriddin’s counterargument:

The reality is that, paradoxically, if First Nations are truly interested in more autonomy, they will never get it without cooperation from the federal government. That means electing a government that is sympathetic to their perspective — and they will never do so unless they go to the polls. Voting is not capitulation, but a recognition that in a democracy, you need to participate if you want your voice to be heard.

Despite the mainstream media’s pleas, we must remember as First Nation individuals we are connected to our families, communities and nations. Therefore we have collective or group rights, which Canadian citizens — whether founding settlers or recent immigrants — cannot claim.

In fact, Canada (including the Supreme Court of Canada) bases its asserted sovereignty and territorial integrity on the racist, colonial Christian doctrine of discovery. Kheiriddin’s argument makes sense only if Indigenous peoples already consider themselves as “Canadians.” MORE

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